FAS ● Oct 28, 2023
Singapore’s most-capped female goalkeeper calls time on playing career after 51 caps
SINGAPORE, 28 OCTOBER 2023 – In 2011, a 21-year-old Noor Kusumawati Rosman, or affectionately known as Wati, made her debut for Singapore against Vietnam at the AFF Women’s Championships. Fast forward 12 years later, the shot-stopper found herself earning her 51st and final cap at the Lionesses’ inaugural appearance at the Asian Games. It came as a surprise to many, when Wati decided to drop the retirement announcement bomb prior to the Games instead of after.
Her loved ones and teammates were left stunned by her decision. “They were shocked by it but they understood and respected my decision to retire and give others a chance. They are proud of my achievements and will support me no matter what,” the 33-year-old shared with FAS.org.sg via a phone call with a hint of emotion.
Hitting the 51-caps milestone was a long-anticipated moment for Wati, a culmination of her enduring commitment and passion to the sport. “It’s a relief to have reached 51 caps; it really has been a long time coming,” Wati admitted.
“It’s an immense honour and a proud moment for me. There have been ups and downs in football, but I managed to go through them all and finish off in a big tournament.”
Today, Wati proudly ranks as the second most-capped Singapore female footballer along with the title of the most capped goalkeeper in the country.
From netball nets to football pitches
Wati (middle with the trophy) with her netball team during her ITE days. Photo courtesy of Wati.
Wati’s journey into football was an unexpected one – for most of her life, she had been dedicated to netball. Despite hailing from a family with a deep love for football, she had never really considered playing the sport – and for an unsurprising reason: “I didn’t know there was a football Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) in a school in Singapore for girls until I went to ITE,” she recounted.
It was a chance encounter with her good friend and fellow national women’s footballer, Ernie Sulastri, that changed the course of her sporting path. Ernie asked her to step in as a goalkeeper for the school’s football team, and Wati decided to take the leap.
Her reasoning was simple but profound: “If men can do it, why not us women too, right?”
Wati soon made that role her own, beginning to represent her school in competitions, albeit her father’s reservations: “My father was initially concerned about my safety, but as he saw my passion and dedication for the sport, he changed his mind and supported my decision to pursue football.
Wati (second row from the right in orange jersey), with the FAS Young Women team. Photo courtesy of Wati.
Her football journey continued with stints at various clubs, including Kaki Bukit FC, FAS Young Women, F17, GFA Sporting Westlake FC, Warriors FC, and Police Sports Association, before making her move to one of the top WPL clubs, Lion City Sailors, in 2021. Yet, as she was playing at club level, the thought of making it to the national team was a distant notion for her.
“Initially, I didn’t dream of playing for the national team. I played football purely for passion and enjoyment,” she recounted.
However, fate had other plans. The unexpected call came from former National Women’s football coach Hassan Ismail, and it was a whirlwind of emotions.
“I was scared at first, but also happy that I had the opportunity to play alongside good senior players that I looked up to, like Shidah Shariff Baker, Mastura Jeilani, Norsuria Damsuri, Angeline Chua, Charmaine Lim and Ernie,” Wati reminisced.
On October 16, 2011, she earned her first cap and made her first starting eleven appearance against Vietnam, marking the beginning of an illustrious 13-year football journey.
The tough fight for passion
However, like any long and storied journey, Wati faced her fair share of challenges.
“There was one match where we lost badly, conceding more than 10 goals, and this happened early in my national team career. My confidence level hit an all-time low and made me question myself, “Why am I doing this?” But my senior teammates encouraged me to pick myself up and rise above the setbacks,” she revealed.
She also credits her family, especially her dad, for always being there through the thick and thin of things.
Ironically, her unwavering positivity and resolute attitude acted as an unlikely saviour, helping her weather the unsavoury storms of social media.
“The internet wasn’t, and is still, not kind to us,” she recalled.
“We do read the comments and criticism on social media after losing a match. Sometimes, I don’t even know if it’s a good thing that we’ve become somewhat immune to it. People don’t truly understand how challenging it can be, especially when we have to balance our passion for the sport with the harsh reality that pursuing that passion in Singapore is no easy task”, she continued. Off the pitch, she works as an administrative assistant in a production company.
However, the ever determined Wati shared that her passion for football has always been the greatest motivator for her and was what continued to drive her: “Up until today, it’s incredibly tough for me to believe that I am retiring”.
Live for the moments
Lionesses celebrating after winning against Laos in the 2022 SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam, May 2022. Credit: Sport Singapore/Dyan Tjhia
It’s no wonder she feels this way – the many other amazing memories over the years outweighed all the challenges she faced. She shared that Izzati Rosni’s single goal against Laos in last year’s SEA Games “was an absolutely wild moment” for her and the team.
“While we may not have taken the top prize, the team’s performance in every game was nothing short of amazing. The 2022 SEA Games in Hanoi represented a historic moment for women’s football, and I had the incredible opportunity to witness it firsthand. The feeling was beyond words, and I was just overwhelmed with happiness. I hugged my teammates tightly and thanked them for making it all possible,” she shared, with an evident uplift in her tone.
For her, this is what she will absolutely miss and cherish greatly – the friendship bonds established, and the memories gained.
“We’ve faced tough times together as a team, and it only fuelled our determination to train harder. I looked forward to every training session, finding the fun even after a long day of work. It was something to look forward to, even when we were tired – it was like a boost for all of us,” she reflected.
Wati at the Asian Games, September 2023. Credit: Sport Singapore/ Jeremy Lee
When asked about what’s next, she remains open to the opportunities that lie ahead, a true testament to her go-getter personality: “I have yet to think about the specific roles I will take on, but I am certain that when the opportunity arises, I will find a way to contribute to the community in any way I can. Right now, I’m focused on turning the page to the next chapter of life and making room for the younger talents in the national team.”
As for the Asian Games being her farewell, it’s a bittersweet memory for Wati. She achieved her dream number of caps in the most challenging circumstances. In their inaugural debut at the Asian Games, the Lionesses were paired up against the formidable North Korea, one of the top ten teams in women’s football, and they experienced tough losses in both matches.
Still, Wati remains unfazed: “Despite going up against North Korea, it was a great experience to be in an Asian Games. We hadn’t faced them in such a long time, and I got to play in both games, which I am incredibly thankful for. The feeling was akin to playing in the World Cup, especially since North Korea eventually clinched the second spot in the Asian Games. We may not have emerged victorious, but we can proudly say we gave it our all, and it wasn’t easy.
“And that’s what football is all about – no room for regrets, just go for it”, she concluded.
CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT
FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION OF SINGAPORE